Editor’s note: You probably have a handle on what Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States means in your own country, but what about around the world? We pulled reaction from our newsrooms in the U.S., the U.K., Australia and France to provide an international view on his surprise victory.
A Trump victory may not spell doom and gloom
Mark Chou, Associate Professor of Politics, Australian Catholic University
So Allan Lichtman, the American professor who’s correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984, just got another election right. Donald Trump will be the next American president.
This result, which proved most polls wrong, will no doubt shock many. But with the election done, it’s important to take stock and ask the question: What now?
In his victory speech, Trump presented an uncharacteristically measured and gracious front, calling for national unity. It’s “time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said, adding, “I will be president for all Americans.” But if a recent Pew Research Center study is to be believed, close to 60 percent of voters think that America is set to become even more divided under Trump’s watch.
There may be no more prominent a battlefield for these divisions than Congress. Yes, the GOP now controls both the House and Senate, and there’s good reason to expect that even Republicans who openly opposed Trump during the campaign will now want to build ties with the incoming president. But Trump’s victory was no landslide, and Republicans on Capitol Hill with 2018 and 2020 in mind have plenty of incentive to do all they can to “keep Trump’s worst tendencies in check.”
For now, it’s too early to know for sure what President Trump’s first 100 days in office will hold. But for those looking for a silver lining to the nightmare, there may be some solace in the words of Alexis de Tocqueville. He once wrote that the “frenzied state” whipped up by elections, when “intrigue becomes more active, agitation more lively and more widespread,” never remains for long. In fact, the divisions and passions which “one moment overflowed” during the election proper always evaporates and everything “returns peacefully to its bed.”
Let’s hope he’s right.
A dark moment for America’s democracy
Liam Kennedy, University College Dublin, Ireland
The election that elevated Trump to the presidency has been brutal, ugly and bizarre. It has poisoned the well of American democracy, and the toxins it has introduced are unlikely to disperse anytime soon.
Trump has eagerly led a mass abandonment of civility and reason, breached social proprieties and political protocols, and normalised prejudice and brazen dishonesty.
Trump is an opportunist, not an ideologue – and he certainly isn’t driven by deep political convictions. Some claim he didn’t actually intend to make a protracted and successful run for the presidency, that he was seeking to promote his brand on the cheap, and that his ego simply took over once he was hijacked by his own success. Perhaps – but this overlooks the fact that he several times considered a tilt at the presidency, and it probably overstates just how much his campaign relied on improvisation and happenstance rather than something genuinely knowing.
While many found Trump’s approach risible even to the end, it was strikingly effective from the off – and, while he stumbled many times, the underlying instinct to “go low” became a distressingly effective strategy.
What’s the lesson of all this? The historians will one day be able to offer a longer view on that one. Right now, I suggest that Trump’s victory should remind us just how fragile the social and political order we take for granted is – and how quickly an advanced democracy can be dragged into barbarism.
Learning to work with Trump, despite everything
Frédéric Charillon, Université Clermont Auvergne, France
Unless the new president makes substantial changes to the positions he’s already taken, three developments are very likely:
We are at the dawn of a new wave of anti-Americanism around the world, from which the United States will not be able to recover quickly. The image of the America portrayed in the speeches that Trump has given will not be easy to repair.
More than ever, U.S. foreign policy will be a series of extreme shifts and oppositions – other political forces or bureaucracies in the U.S. will no doubt oppose certain positions Trump may take. A measure of paralysis is to be feared.
European allies, whatever they may say, will have to learn to work with Trump. He will seek to be charming, and – over time – could attract some to his anti-interventionist rhetoric. However, a number of countries will be constrained by segments of their populations completely opposed to any display of cordiality with Trump, who for them embodies absolute evil. It will still be necessary to deal with him, but one good aspect is that he probably has no ideology, making him more pragmatic.
The real question, however, is what leeway Trump will have in an America beset by doubt, divisions and political paralysis. Does he even want to reconcile with the world the part of the United States that didn’t flinch when he suggested building a wall on the Mexican border or banning all Muslims from entering U.S. territory? If he doesn’t, the relationship between the United States and the international community could enter a particularly difficult phase.
No more ‘business as usual’
Gorana Grgic, lecturer in U.S. politics and foreign policy, University of Sydney, Australia
This result confirms that 2016 is a year of tectonic shifts in politics of the Western democracies. The surge of populism, Brexit and Trump’s victory are all testament that it is no longer “business as usual.” This is perhaps the most critical departure from the way U.S. politics has been operating in the post-Cold War era. It has shown that the population rejects some of the main tenets of globalisation, such as free trade and open borders, and sees little value in internationalist foreign policy.
In terms of how the world sees the result, I think there’s going to be a lot of trepidation over the “unknowns” of Trump’s foreign policy. His foreign security policy sees little place for values and international norms, emphasising interest instead. This will undoubtedly have major repercussions for U.S. standing in the world, particularly if we take into account how the global public opinion polls have been assessing Trump.
Finally, in denouncing major alliances and partnerships, Australia has been conspicuously missing from Trump’s campaigns. There are reasons to believe that not much will change in terms of the commitment to ANZUS treaty. However, given Trump’s disinclination to maintain some of the key alliances in East Asia, it is possible that the Asia-Pacific region will grow unstable.
Moreover, trade protectionism, especially in terms of China, could contribute trade disruptions and market instabilities that could well impact Australia.
America, the divided
Anthony Gaughan, Drake University, U.S.
Above all, the 2016 election made clear that America is a nation deeply divided along racial, cultural, gender and class lines.
Under normal circumstances, one would expect the new president to attempt to rally the nation behind a message of unity.
But Trump will not be a normal president. He won the White House by waging one of the most divisive and polarizing campaigns in American political history. It is entirely possible that he may choose to govern using the same strategy of divide and conquer.
In any case, Trump will soon be the most powerful person in the world. He will enter office on Jan. 20 with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, which means Republicans will dictate the nation’s policy agenda and control Supreme Court appointments for the next four years. It seems highly likely therefore that Nov. 8, 2016 will go down in the history books as a major turning point in American history.
The 2016 election defied the conventional wisdom from start to finish. It is probably a safe bet that the Trump presidency will be just as unpredictable.